TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - Sculptures of ancient Chinese symbols such as a swimming sea turtle, a boy farmer on the back of an ox and cranes resting on pine trees sold in Taiwan hardly look like toxic trash, but they nearly were.
Super Dragon Technology Industry, the largest e-waste recycling company in Taiwan, makes the sculptures from boards of 18,000 discarded computers received each month to diversify business while helping the environment.
"We prefer not to burn it. We'd rather leave the materials on earth," said General Manager Ken Wu. "If there isn't a good way to use the material, that causes major environmental damage."
Super Dragon, whose main business is to recover and sell metal from discarded computers, is the only Taiwan firm that fully recycles boards, the island's Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said. It as made sculptures for 10 years.
Tech-reliant Taiwan produced more than 80,000 tonnes of e-waste in 2008, a threat to soil and groundwater, the EPA estimates, and about 60,000 tonnes could be recycled.
Much of the world's e-waste ends up in developing counties, causing contamination in regions of China, India and Africa.
Super Dragon, a 13-year-old privately run processing center near Taipei, dismantles the boards inside waste computers and crumbles them into fine fiberglass pellets that are molded by a staff sculptor into works of art.
When painted, the sculptures resemble wood, stone and china.
Sculptures of a mythical animal that brings good fortune sell for T$10,000 ($310) apiece, the top price for its art.
Dependent solely on orders and drop-in business so far, art makes up just one percent of business with an average of 500 to 600 pieces made annually, the company said. Super Dragon expects more sales next year when it opens an art shop in central Taipei.
Reporting by Christine Lu, Ben Tai and Ralph Jennings, editing by Miral Fahmy